face value

Clement resolution has been reached, after a hurried decrescendo from the screeching fortissimo so loudly blatant it still seems incredible that a cadence has been arrived at.

Nevertheless, clemency is clemency, and I generally take people and things at face value – which is different from trusting anyone, because trust is reserved for only those who have earned it, while face value is to allow myself and others to continue along on our journeys together or separately.

In case you’re wondering, I am waffling about the bizarre drama mentioned in my previous post – perfidy – in which I ranted on about a shockingly impudent contract that an arts company had asked me to sign in exchange for a piddly sum of money.

Well, the folks behind this theatrical farce have backed down, signed the contract I drafted and my first cheque has been cashed. I must give credit where credit is due. It takes a level of sincerity – that is, earnestly desiring to achieve whatever it was they set out to achieve and not allow any hiccups to hinder the attainment of original intent – to openly do an about turn, a very sharp and quick one too, I might add. And just like that, we have mended the contractual fence and are going ahead with the project. We both agree on one objective, and this is the important factor: the work we are doing together has value and adds to our separate and common vision. That is enough for me.

I appreciate promptness, efficiency, straight forward communication, no mincing around, no faffing and no cheesy platitudes. They offered none – although they did feebly try to say they had no idea, and those shockingly exploitative terms were a hand-me-down from previous administration – but they didn’t persist with this because I do suspect they know how ridiculous it sounds, no matter which way one looks at it.

Anyway… Usual social niceties do not impress me. Decisive action does. Either I am in, or I am out. I’m not here to make new friends. (I have enough friends, more than I can decently attend to, and I already feel quite terrible to be neglecting them because I just have not enough spoons left for being sociable.) I’m here to do work, and I want it to be good work, as good as I possibly can produce, and I expect the same from the people I am working alongside.

So… let’s do this thing now, then! Tally ho!

perfidy

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Frightening mephitic essence of blatant tyranny oozing from every pore. Maleficent, flagitious, mockery of the Sacred.

I am contacted by representative of arts company to re-create my Clement Space installation in one of their rooms, an immersive, interactive exhibition that will run for 12 months. Two overly long meetings. A deluge of talk, talk, talk. Bubbly enthusiasm. Then, one month of anxiety-laden delay. Broken trust. Agreements ignored. And finally, The Contract.

  1. The company demands to co-own (in perpetuity) my Clement Space – intellectual property that has existed for three years as an established signature concept and creative work belonging solely to me, the Artist.
  2. The company demands to literally take possession of the Artist – body, mind and soul – for a period of 12 months, during which the Artist is not allowed to engage in any other creative work, unless the Artist applies in writing for permission from the company.

The payment: $3,500. Read it again. $3,500. No, not even $3,500 per month, which is an insult enough for an artist with a PhD and international experience. It is $3,500 for the entire year. Yes. For $3,500 they want to commandeer a piece of valuable property that does not and will never rightfully belong to them; and they want to play colonial master to the Artist subaltern for an entire year.

An exclamation mark at the end of the sentence fails miserably to represent the shocking impudence and preposterously brazen, flagrant attempt to contriturate the artistic soul.

Hence, I did not put one in.

What manner of heinousness is this? What goes on inside the bowels of these persons’ consciousness? How could they even have conceived of such terms and demands, such high-handed, ludicrous and impudent expropriation? And what kind of arrogance propelled them to put these thoughts into words – an official, legally binding document, no less?

And no, I am not ‘overreacting’ – my lawyer has had a look at it. A serious travesty, no laughing matter.

Of course, I asked for the clauses to be removed. I asked most politely too. Their response was a casual WhatsApp message:

“Good morning, thank you for your feedback and thoughts on the contract- they’re definitely justified, will revert back to you once we’ve deliberated. You have a good day.”

That was Monday. It is now Saturday. Not a hint of an apology. No admission of solecism. And no redrawn, revised, respectful and mutually beneficial contract. Does it really take a whole week to “deliberate” on how to be respectful and fair in your dealings? As if decency and fairness even need to be deliberated on? And how long does it take to strike out two outrageous sections from a contract? Very telling. And most disconcertingly so.

Artists are among the most oppressed and undervalued professionals. The arts scene can be spiteful, exclusive, elitist and ableist, and most artists are underpaid and overworked.

Disabled persons are also among the most maltreated and disrespected people in an ableist, elitist societal culture.

Put the two together, and we have Disabled Artists who are trying to survive under immense odds – compounded. We are asked to work for free, in exchange for “exposure”. Our needs for accommodation and support are brushed off and often even derided. Our requests and protests are delegated to the “Too Hard” tray, while large corporations and organisations milk the “Disability Inclusion” machinery, churning out facetious, spurious terminology like “Diffable”, “Differently Abled” and “Inspirational” – all entrenched in ableist ideology.

Disabled artists in Singapore deserve the basic, fundamental human right to protection against contumelious exploitation and audacious bullying. Enough is enough.

THIS is why we need a Disabled-Led Artists Collective. This is why I have committed my precious time, limited physical energy and scarce resources to leading Singapore’s first, with the support of the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) Singapore. This is why, if you are a disabled artist, I’d like to invite you to sign up to join our collective.

To find out more, please email me: dr.dawnjoyleong@gmail.com / dawnjoy@dpa.org.sg

a clement Christmas

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Clemency is hard to find. Clement Space is an ongoing quest. As is the Endeavour of Empathy.

Looking back, contemplating crashing fortissimo and lifting appoggiatura, soul crushing depletion and spiritual strengthening… Artaud and Wagner, humour, beauty, gritty determined ‘dogliness’… Lucy has once again carried me through yet another year with her gentle, wordless steadfastness of spirit and embodied grace.

It’s Christmas Eve. I recall with gratitude and fondness, the most precious Christmas gift from our sojourn in Paddington, Sydney. It was 2013, a quiet Christmas Eve, early morning when the summer air was still cool and crisp. Those roses, tossed out by someone, still fresh and beaming with a brilliance I’ve never yet seen nor witnessed again in a bunch of flowers. Put into my hands with a gruff greeting, from our friend Michael, an eccentric old man who lives in a rickety van. We met when Lucy and I were out walking, Lucy chose to say hello to this elegantly dressed solitary figure, smoking and reading the newspapers on the park bench just by our grass patch we call “dog patch”. I miss Paddo. I miss our neighbourhood, our friends, and I think of them often. Especially Michael. I hope he is well. One can never be sure. Michael comes and goes. Nobody knows where and when. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. He was choking back tears when we last said goodbye, too proud for a hug, we did not even make eye contact. But I hope he knew how much we would miss him.

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This Christmas Eve, Lucy and I are ‘home’ with mum, my baby sister and brother-in-law, their two little furry children, and our helper Nula. Lucy has over-eaten again, too many treats and a giant lamb bone from her aunt who thinks she is too thin. (Though I keep reiterating that Lucy is a Greyhound, they are naturally lean.) We are waiting for Christmas Eve dinner – yet another private gastronomic feast by my amazing brother-in-law. The over-fed Canine Angel is asleep in bed, next to me. I can hear her rhythmic breathing, and she opens her sleepy eyes occasionally to check on me.

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I reflect on Christmases long past, and I realise how peaceful it is now. Without any more pomp and ceremony, no more need to dodge snide remarks and undercurrents of bitchery or witchery, no competition for whose gift is the most expensive or who has achieved the most success in the year. Those are now distant memories, and juxtaposed with our recent ones, they stand as reminders of how much goodness has come along since I walked away from all that mire.

We had our pre-Christmas dinner with extended family and friends last week. It was a very merry one, noisy and overloading but not at all emotionally or mentally exhausting. A pleasant, happy, kind of overload. And, of course, the food is always delicious – how could it not be, with a top professional chef and two F&B professionals in the party?

This year, I slogged away all week to finish my handmade gifts to mum, baby sis, Mini-B and Tiny-T. A welcome restfulness of spirit and blessedness of mind – taking time away from a surfeit of advocacy work, campaigning and proposals – just to touch, feel, and flow with the patterns and variations so clement to the senses. ‘Making’ is a beautiful activity for me, calming and restoring. I’ve named my jewellery line “LaLaLouBelle” – after Lucy and my childhood nickname for baby sis. Every piece is made up of vintage and antique components, collected through my early years of avid travelling or handed down to me from mum and granny. Each one a narrative of love and filled with meaningful history.

Oh, yes, and Little Mini wee-wee-ed on Lucy’s bed yesterday, so I’ll have to buy Lucy a new bed. Mini is a spunky little (fat) button, with a penchant for Lucy’s bedding.

We’re all set! I’ve put up a miniature tree, with tiny lights and trimmings. Our presents are all ready for the ritual tonight. – we open ours on Christmas Eve.

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A peaceful and clement Christmas Eve wish to all from Lucy and me!

only an expert

The Autism Grand Circus Industry has grown out of proportion. Tiresome and tiring, depending on where one happens to be standing. Everyone claims expertise – from the Autism Mom who has written a few books based on their observation of their own child/children and now goes around giving talks and dishing out sage advice about autism, to the learned non-autistic professional with many degrees in Autism, everyone is an expert dealing with the Autism Problem. Everyone, that is, except the Actual Autistic person. Autistic people are mysteriously ignored and sidelined in the Autism industry. A phenomenon so strange that it is almost eerie.

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Can magic mushrooms cure autism?

Talking about bone-chilling, I recently found this in a webpage of a business specialising in “treating” autism. The alarm bells rang loudly when I saw “Chelation” and “CD Water”. Then I did some research on the various “Dr” people named in this letter, and found them all to be promoting expensive dubious ministrations aimed at “shedding”, “recovering” and “overcoming”. Some of these involve injecting the autistic child with unregulated substances, others focus on dietary interventions, all couched in complex-sounding pseudoscientific terminology. Is your blood curdling yet?

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An autistic friend of mine has been valiantly trying to educate parents about snake oil sales pitches, dodgy programmes and harmful approaches to fixing the autism problem. Very brave person indeed, because he was variously derided and chided, treated like a foolish child, instead of someone worthy of respect. I often wonder, do these same parents even have the mindfulness to ponder this: If you treat autistic adults this way now, what kind of world are you preparing for your autistic child to grow up into? Is this how you’d want others to treat your autistic child when they become autistic adults? Or are you gambling all you’ve got on the great “cure” casino floor, thinking it’s going to be fine, your child will be rid of autism by the time they become adults, and hence they will not have to face this kind of demeaning and crushing ableism?

I honestly find it difficult to fathom what goes on in these parents’ minds – there, I admit it, I lack Neuronormative Theory of Mind! It is excruciatingly difficult to be thusly illogical and unthinking. Yet, I am told I should empathise a little more, “slow down” and allow others to catch up. My doctor says it’s good for my heart – you know, that strange squishy squashy rhythmically driven organ responsible for pushing blood around the body? Yes, that one.

Perhaps 2019 will be a year of “slowing down”, but in a different way: that is, finding Clement Space inside gentle things, wondrous connections and conversations with the material universe. I love my autistic world, it is a pulchritudinous eco-system, but the crass, grating vibrations of the normative realm is at odds with autistic tranquility. Too many experts. So little space for Beauty.

bloviation & the sacrificial lamb

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bloviating babble bubbles

I learned this new word from my friend Rick. I like it. It has a robust movement to its physical form, flow and force. It sounds and feels like thick copious slimy globules arising from a pit of bubbling sludge. This word has a sensorial constitution that matches its meaning. Thank you, Rick!

“Bloviation” – such a proliferate and aggressively dominating activity in the field of Autism and Neurodiversity. Autism is a trendy topic these days, isn’t it? Everyone – from the housewife ‘AutismMom’ to the Professor in Psychiatry, and the outright quacks touting ‘cures’ and ‘healing touches’ mushrooming like unbridled viruses in between – seems to be dancing vigorously around the jolly campfire of Autism.The word makes me think of the many (I have lost count now, it is a long and wearying list) instances of having to silently endure protracted lectures, workshops, conversations, discussions, seminars, forums, conferences etc where non-autistic / neurotypical, so-called ‘experts in the field’ (with ‘decades of experience’ working with countless autistic persons, of course) blather on and on, expounding theories constructed out of little or no insights from actual lived-experiences, confidently spreading erroneous or inaccurate ideas and information, without due citations from progressive science or quoting from old and outdated studies, musing in hyped-up dramatic tones, and performing plastic rituals that ooze tokenism… Continue reading

clemency & space

 

This morning, I travelled across my little island home from the central region where I live, to the western coast, to the Yale-NUS College library to set up my miniature Clement Space in the City (revised, 2018) installation. It is an impressive campus, not for its size, as it is a small one, but for its compact superficial beauty. There is a sense of crafted tranquility in its manicured greenery, right in the middle of smart modern buildings. Meandering around clean, crisp corridors, trying to find my destination, I wonder about the lack of clear signposts. Is it a deliberate exercise in subtle exclusion, a quiet ‘hint’ to outsiders that we are not exactly warmly welcomed into this carefully constructed environment for the elite? I do not really know, but I did have the thought that Lucy would’ve loved a nice run around the green grass patches, though she’d probably create bald muddy holes in the wake of her greyhound strides. Then another thought following this one was, “Is this beauty something to merely behold, or can we actually use it, run around in it, hug the trees, roll in the manicured grass, laugh, flap, stim and lie on it?” Continue reading

anxiety at the BIG Anxiety

Big anxiety at The BIG Anxiety Festival!

Some of this narrative was introduced in my previous post, about Food Markers, but this ramble here is a kind of variation on the theme, from a different angle.

This 2017 working trip has been fraught with dramatic ups and downs, and here’s my as-brief-as-possible review of the Grand Experience, months afterwards. Beware, ye grammar-sticklers, I do move rapidly between tenses, because I am unfolding the unfolding as I am experiencing it, in the now, in the then, and in the next. And that, too, is my Autistic Bunny Authentic Experience-ing. Continue reading

food markers

Food can be multi sensorial markers for a journey, tangible physical tabs that help one chronicle the meandering and navigating along the way. Here are my food markers for this trip, a somewhat odd blend of agony and joy, despair and exhilaration all rolled into one jumbled mass.

After arriving at my place of abode, already down with some kind of nasty infection, feverish and in a brain fog, I set about trying to find some nourishment for my weary body. I didn’t manage to get far, due to the sorry state I was in, and settled for a hot dog and an orange juice from the pie and hot dog stand across the road, by the wharf. A sunny day, there were the usual seagulls and pigeons stalking all and any humans sitting at the benches eating. One man brought his little French Bulldog for some sunshine. It was difficult chewing down on the hotdog, my jaw slightly swollen and stiff, but I was quite determined to achieve the feat. The orange juice tasted like soap and plastic though, pretty vile, hence that was abandoned after a few swigs. I so hate to waste. Continue reading

Goodbye 2017

 

Sometimes, the mind gets lost inside the mire of anxiety, like a hamster caught in an ever spinning wheel, so focused on the effort of running that one can forget to hop off the relentless vicious cycle. Feeling unwell from an unpleasant juxtaposition between Christmas feasting and irritable bowel syndrome, caught in the doldrums of self-deprecation, I was just about to declare 2017 a year of absolute non-achievement (yes, utterly ridiculous but that was my mindset at the time) when I decided to take a long, deep breath, sit down and make a list of the activities I had engaged in through the year. Truth be told, 2017 was actually a literal beehive of activity. I was surprised, duly chastised for my negativity, a tad shamefaced yet relieved – I needed that stern reality check! Continue reading

crafting clement space

Lucy has been busy inspiring this autistic Bunny yet again. We are crafting “Clement Space in the City (2017)” – getting ready for the Neurodiverse-city exhibition at the Customs House, Sydney, opening 20 September 2017! All part of a huge and amazing project, the BIG Anxiety festival 2017.

(Sorry, all Lucy-fans out there, I will not be taking her to the festival – not unless someone is willing to sponsor a return Business Class ticket on Qantas and the preparation costs.)